Former Eagleton School staff member won't go to jail for assault on student

Saunders was accused of striking head of student against radiator

PITTSFIELD — A former staff member of the now-defunct Eagleton School who admitted assaulting a student will avoid jail time if he stays out of trouble.

Derrick Saunders, 44, of Pittsfield, was accused of striking the head of one of the students against a radiator while he was restrained in April 2014.

He was among about 20 former staff members of the school for developmentally disabled boys and young men who were charged in alleged abuse of students.

The allegations culminated in a January 2016 raid of the Great Barrington campus by local, state and federal law enforcement. The school remained open after the raid, but it closed for good that April, after its licenses to operate were revoked.

A pending civil lawsuit against the school and several of its staff members alleges that staff members routinely abused and neglected students, denied them proper medical attention, did not adequately investigate or report instances of abuse, and denied guardians access to their students if they complained or raised concerns.

Saunders pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court on Thursday to charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a disabled person and caretaker abuse of a disabled person.

Judge John Agostini continued his case without a finding, which means that his charges will be dismissed if he remains out of further legal trouble for the one-year period.

His is the second Eagleton-related case to be resolved. A jury in July found former staff member Jose O. Valqui, 53, of Pittsfield not guilty of the same charges Saunders pleaded to. That case involved a separate incident that occurred in May 2015.

Reach staff writer Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249 or @BobDunn413 on Twitter.


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